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Harry Blokhuis

Harry Blokhuis


Harry BlokhuisI am professor of Ethology in the Department of Animal Environment and Health. I was born in 1955 in the small village of Woudenberg in The Netherlands.

Education and degrees
In 1979 I graduated in animal science from Wageningen University as animal scientist with specialisation in applied ethology and animal physiology.

In 1989 I finished my PhD dissertation entitled "The development and causation of feather pecking in the domestic fowl".


  • 1979 – 1989 Rearcher at the Centre for Poultry Research "Het Spelderholt", The Netherlands.
  • 1989 – 1994 Head of the Poultry Science Department, Centre for Poultry Research "Het Spelderholt", The Netherlands.
  • 1991 – 1994 Head of the Housing and Management Department, Institute for Animal Production "Schoonoord", The Netherlands.
  • 1994 – 2000 Head of the department of Behaviour, Stress Physiology and Management of ID-Lelystad, The Netherlands.
  • 2000 – 2002 Head of research group Animal Welfare, Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands.
  • 2002 – 2007 Manager International Research Networks, Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen University and Research Centre, The Netherlands.
  • 2005 – 2007 Adjunct professor of Integrative Animal Welfare Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
  • 2007 - Professor of Ethology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden.


Completed projects
I have been coordinating several European research projects. The largest was Welfare Quality® where we worked with about 250 scientists from all over Europe (and beyond) to develop systems for welfare assessment and communication. A large number of partners from WQ are still working together in the Welfare Quality Network to stimulate further research and upgrading of the assessment protocols. I am currently the coordinator of this network. Another EU funded project that I coordinated is called "European Animal Welfare Platform". This platform was a unique project aimed at helping European producers to implement higher standards for animal welfare. Another project I coordinated was EUWelNet where we evaluated the feasibility of a European network of reference centres for animal welfare.

I was also involved in the AWARE project that aimed to promote further integration of Eastern European countries in research and education on farm animal welfare. It organized interactions/networking between scientists, lecturers, students and stakeholders active in farm animal welfare knowledge transfer and implementation.

Recently we were involved in two European projects. The EU-PLF project dealt with implementation of Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) systems on farm level (see video here). The HENNOVATION project focused on the potential of innovation led by producers and industry practices through the establishment of innovation networks that proactively search for and utilize new ideas to make their business more efficient and sustainable. The networks initially tackled two particular issues of concern in the egg production chain: injurious pecking and the transport and use of end-of-lay hens.

Current research
In a newly started project we aim to provide broiler chickens with an environment in which they can sleep undisturbed. The hypothesis is that less disturbance and a more natural sleeping pattern will result in improved welfare (e.g. lower fearfulness, fewer leg problems) and better productivity (e.g. growth, feed conversion, immune status). 

We recently started the PATHWAYS project, a Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Action project. PATHWAYS has received €9 million EU support. The project will contribute to the EU’s Farm-to-Fork strategy, which is at the heart of the EU Green Deal, by designing transition pathways that address societal demands for the provision of resilient, safe, nutritious and affordable livestock-based food, while reducing environmental impacts and furthering the sustainability of the European livestock sector.

I coordinate this project together with my colleague Laurence Smith. PATHWAYS will run for five years (2021-2026), with 28 partners from 12 countries including universities, research institutes, NGOs, think tanks, SMEs, industry associations, and multi-nationals – mobilising stakeholders along every step of the food value chain.

I am currently also director of the European Reference Centre for Animal Welfare for Ruminants and Equines. The role of this Centre is to develop and disseminate knowledge and tools to assist the National Competent Authorities of the EU Member States in performing better official controls and enforce EU animal welfare rules. Apart from SLU (including the Swedish Centre for Animal Welfare) the consortium behind the Centre includes partners from Italy, France, Austria, Ireland and Greece.


My interest in animal behaviour was triggered by some books of the Dutch Nobel laureate Nico Tinbergen (1907-1988). I became intrigued by the relative 'simplicity' of his fieldwork (e.g. on the herring gull and the digger wasp). He showed how accurate observation and registration of behaviour together with imaginative questions about function, causation and development resulted in exiting hypotheses that could be tested (in a natural setting or in the laboratory).

During my study at Wageningen University in The Netherlands I became aware of the relevance of behaviour studies to improve housing and management and the welfare of farm animals ('applied ethology'). Through stimulating teachers like prof Jos Metz and prof Piet Wiepkema I developed my interest in applied ethology and started a scientific career in this area.

Selected publications

Selected publications

  • Axel-Nilsson, M., Peetz-Nielsen, P. Visser, E.K., Nyman, S, and Blokhuis, H.J., 2015. Perceived relevance of selected behavioural traits in horses – A survey conducted in Sweden. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science, 65:1, 23-32.
  • Bassler, A., Arnould, C., Butterworth, A., Colin, L., De Jong, I.C., Ferrante, V., Ferrari, P., Haslam, S., Wemelsfelder, F. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2013. Factors associated with contact dermatitis, walking ability, emotional state and human-animal relationship in broiler chicken flocks. Poultry Science vol. 92 no. 11 2811-2826.
  • Blokhuis, H.J., 2012. Welfare Quality®. World's PoultryScience Journal. 68, supplement 1, 1-7.
  • Blokhuis, H.J., 2018. Animal Welfare information in a changing world. In: A. Butterworth (Ed.), Animal Welfare Challenges: dilemmas in a changing world. CABI, Wallingford, UK, 208-216.
  • Blokhuis, H.J., Veissier, I., Miele, M. and Jones, R.B., 2019. Safeguarding farm animal welfare. In: Melissa Vogt (Ed.), Sustainability Certification Schemes in the Agricultural and Natural Resource Sectors. Outcomes for Society and the Environment. Routledge, London, UK, 137-153.
  • Buller, H., Blokhuis, H., Jensen, P. and Keeling, L., 2018. Towards Farm AnimalWelfare and Sustainability. Review. Animals 2018, 8, 81; doi:10.3390/ani8060081.
  • Buller, Henry, Blokhuis, Harry, Lokhorst, Kees, Silberberg, Mathieu and Veissier, Isabelle, 2020. Animal welfare management in a digital world. Animals, 10, 1779; doi:10.3390/ani10101779.
  • Ingenbleek, P.T.M., Blokhuis, H.J., A. Butterworth and L.J. Keeling, 2011. A scenario analysis on the implementation of a farm animal welfare assessment system. Animal Welfare 20, 613-621.
  • Forslind, S., Blokhuis, H.J. and Riber, A.B., 2021. Disturbance of resting behaviour of broilers under different environmental conditions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 242,
  • Gocsik, E., Silvera, A., Hansson, H., Saatkamp, H. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2017. Exploring the economic potential of reducing broiler lameness. British Poultry Science 58:4, 337-347. DOI: 10.1080/00071668.2017.1304530.
  • Keeling, Linda Jane, Håkan Tunon, Gabriela Olmos Antillón, Charlotte Lotta Berg, Michael Jones, Leopoldo Stuardo, Janice Swanson, Anna Wallenbeck, Christoph Winckler and Harry Blokhuis, 2019. Animal Welfare and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, section Animal Behavior and Welfare, 10 October 2019.
  • Main, D.C.J., Mullan, S., Atkinson, C., Cooper, M., Wrathall, J.H.M. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2014. Best practice framework for animal welfare certification schemes. Trends in Food Science & Technology 37, 127-136.
  • Nielsen, P., Fontana, I., Sloth, K.H., Guarino, M. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2018. Technical note: Validation and comparison of two commercially available activity loggers. Journal of Dairy Science, 101:1–5
  • Olmos Antillón, G., Tunón, H., de Oliveira, D., Jones, M., Wallenbeck, A., Swanson, J., Blokhuis, H. and Keeling, L., 2021. Education to meet the challenges of our time – Reinforcing links between Animal Welfare and the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability 2021, 13, 3328.
  • Ribó, Oriol and Harry Blokhuis, 2012. Risk assessment methodology and identification of animal-based indicators to assess animal welfare at farm level. In: C. Jakobsson (Ed.), Ecosystem health and sustainable agriculture 1. Sustainable agriculture. The Baltic University Programme, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, 362-368.
  • Sarrafchi, A. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2013. Equine stereotypic behaviors: causation, occurrence and prevention. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8, 386-394.
  • Seehuus, B., H.J. Blokhuis, M. Mendl and L. Keeling, 2012. Developing a method to investigate motivational sequences in the chick. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A – Animal Science, 1-9.
  • Seehuus, B., Keeling, L.,, Mendl, M. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2013. Disrupting motivational sequences in chicks: are there affective consequences? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 148, 85-92.
  • Silvera, A.M., Knowles, T.G., Butterworth, A., Berckmans, D., Vranken, E. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2017. Lameness assessment with automatic monitoring of activity in commercial broiler flocks Poultry Science 0, 1-5. doi: 10.3382/ps/pex023.
  • Silvera, A.M., Wallenbeck, A., Butterworth, A. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2017. Modification of the human–broiler relationship and its potential effects on production. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science, 66, 161-167. DOI: 10.1080/09064702.2017.1286379.
  • Van Dijk, L., Buller, H.J., Blokhuis, H.J., van Niekerk, T., Voslarova, E., Manteca, X., Weeks, C.A. and Main, D.C.J., 2019. HENNOVATION: Learnings from promoting practice-led multi-actor innovation networks to address complex animal welfare challenges within the laying hen industry. Animals 2019, 9(1), 24;
  • Viksten, S.M., Visser, E.K. & Blokhuis, H.J., 2016. A comparative study of the application of two horse welfare assessment protocols. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica – Section A. DOI:10.1080/09064702.2016.1186726.
  • Viksten, S.M., Visser, E.K., Hitchens, P.L. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2018. The effects of feedback from horse welfare assessments. Animal Welfare, 27: 125-131. doi: 10.7120/09627286.27.2.125.
  • Viksten, S.M., Visser, E.K., Nyman, S. and Blokhuis, H.J., 2017. Developing a horse welfare assessment protocol. Animal Welfare 26, 59-65.
  • Yngvesson, J., Wedin, M., Gunnarsson, S., Jönsson, L., Blokhuis, H. and Wallenbeck, A., 2018. Let me sleep! – Welfare of broilers (Gallus gallus domesticus) with disrupted resting behavior. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section A — Animal Science (SAGA), 67, 123-133. DOI 10.1080/09064702.2018.1485729.